It is time to pitch your great business idea to a potential investor, but now you feel nervous. A tinge of public speaking anxiety has crept in at the thought of having to speak in front of an audience comprising venture capitalists and angel investors and asking them to fund your startup. You can’t avoid public speaking if you want to fund your business, and you keep asking yourself “how to overcome my fear of public speaking?”
Manage your fear of public speaking
Here are some strategies that can help you overcome your fear of public speaking when you present your pitch deck to potential investors.
1. Start Small
If you have never pitched your startup before, start small. Practice pitching your pitch deck to a select few family and friends. This will help you become more comfortable and confident with your pitch. Begin by presenting to small groups, and work your way up from there. Ask for feedback.
Enlist friends who can help review your pitch deck, ask tough questions, or act like a difficult or indifferent investor. Roleplay the toughest scenarios upfront, so you will not be caught off guard later.
Do a dry run – wear the clothes you have planned, test the equipment you are about to use. Get comfortable. You know your startup best and you will find your fear dissipating the more you practice.
2. Prepare Thoroughly
Build your confidence by knowing your pitch deck inside out. This will enable you to connect with your audience, and you won’t lose your way when delivering your pitch. Practice, practice, practice. Ensure you rehearse several times before your presentation. Time your presentation. There are tools that can improve your public speaking and practice presentations. Orai is one of them.
Check out my podcast with Danish Dhamani, the founder of Orai. He, too, overcame his fear of public speaking and launched the Orai, a public speaking feedback app that is an AI communication coach and speech coach that helps people improve their oratory skills.
Being prepared also means ensuring all your logistics are in place well in advance. You want to be focused and relaxed, not scrambling to ensure the audio is working. Use a checklist to make sure all the details are covered.
3. Do Not Only Memorize the Words in your Pitch Deck
Internalize your pitch. This means becoming so familiar with your pitch deck material that you may deviate from your rehearsed script and deliver the same point with different words. So, it is not about memorizing your entire pitch deck word for word. Remember the key points. Take your cues from the subtopics and examples in your pitch deck.
4. Avoid Common Bullets
5. Reduce Stress
Routines and rituals help. Below are five strategies public speakers use to help overcome nervousness before speaking in public:
- Exercise before your presentation. This helps stimulate endorphins, which reduces stress levels and makes you less anxious and nervous.
- Arrive early. You do not want to be rushing if there is any traffic. Plus, it will give you time to calm down before your pitch.
- Deep breathing exercises. This helps slow your heart rate and delivers the oxygen your body needs to perform.
- Smile. Smiling helps release endorphins, which will allow you to feel great about your pitch.
- Have a good mindset: Stay positive. It will help you feel more confident. Listen to a favorite song before your pitch to get you in the right frame of mind. Increase your confidence by using affirmations and visualizations. Visualize your pitch being successful. Use a mantra or positive affirmation. “You have got this!”
6. Find a Friend to Focus On
Before your pitch starts, make sure you introduce yourself to the people in the room. If you have a chance to make small talk before the presentation, identify the friendlier parties in the room. During your presentation, maintain eye contact with them to ease your nerves and connect with your audience.
7. Drive engagement
Do not let your presentation get monotonous with a never-ending business school type monologue. Make it a two-way interaction. Engage your audience and gauge their areas of concern or focus. This will also allow you to pivot if your pitch is not addressing their interests or concerns.
Looking beyond words
Your gestures and body language are crucial during your pitch as they will convey how you are feeling beyond your words. Your body language will reinforce what you are pitching and your belief in your product and service, or it won’t.
According to the 7-38-55 rule by Prof. Albert Mehrabian, words convey only 7% of the meaning, our vocal expression 38%, and our body language a whopping 55% of what your audience will remember and believe!
Use gestures sparingly to emphasize points. Make your gestures strong and defined. Avoid gestures such as putting your hands on your hips (implies condescension); crossed arms (disagreement), or sticking your hands in pockets (nervousness)
Some entrepreneurs adopt the power pose to feel more confident. Keep a balance and make sure you do not come off as arrogant. Remember, you are pitching to the investors and trying to raise funds from them.
Minimize distractions. Do not aimlessly shift or move around. Vary your tone of voice to emphasize points within your pitch deck. Include pauses in your pitch to give your audience the “aha” moment they need to absorb that significant point you just made.
Always maintain eye contact with your audience.
Recovering from Mistakes
Mistakes will inevitably happen. It is how you handle them in front of your potential future investor that speaks to your character as a startup entrepreneur. Acknowledge it and move on. Be human, make a joke about it (if you are comfortable enough), rectify it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again if you make it to the next meeting with them.
Do not obsess over your mistake, but do not ignore it outright.
Time and materiality are important. Do not bring their attention to small things, such as clicking on the wrong slides. You only have a limited time to pitch them, so don’t waste it sweating the small stuff. The audience will not care or remember when this happens, so there isn’t a need to acknowledge it.